“You are what you eat.” This is an old quote that most of us have heard repeatedly from our mothers, health teachers, and/or our physicians over the years. What does it really mean? As a young child we may have thought we might wake up one morning transformed into a whopper, chicken nugget, or a slice of pizza, as an adult we know that this quote is not literal. It simply means that our food choices and non-choices have a direct bearing our mental and physical health. Since we know that food serves as more than just a substance for sustenance, it is critical for us to be mindful of our eating practices. If you could use some help in this area, keep reading, I’m going to share some ways that you can improve your eating habits.
What's for Breakfast?
Breakfast is lauded as the most important meal of the day. This is fact, not just something our parents told us to get us to eat our oatmeal. While we sleep at night our bodies go into a temporary “fast”; When we awaken our blood sugar level is normally low because of this and breakfast is required to boost this number up (www.webmd.com).
Don’t skip this first meal of the day, doing so results in going about your day with low energy and decreased ability to focus, concentrate, and think optimally as well. Recommended breakfast options are foods that contain dairy and grains and fruit. These choices will help provide the vitamins and nutrients that are necessary to jumpstart our day. Mornings are hectic for a lot of us; When time is an issue, grabbing a quick, light breakfast to go is better than skipping the meal altogether. Grab a banana or orange, cup of yogurt, granola bar and/or breakfast bar on your way out the door.
If calorie counting is your reason for refusing breakfast, don’t do it. Breakfast skippers may save calories at breakfast, only to add many more by overeating at lunch or snacking on high-calorie snacks in between.
It's All About the Portions
Pay attention to portion sizes. It isn’t always what you eat that makes the difference, but sometimes how much you eat that matters. Know what the appropriate serving size is. For example, when choosing between a 6,8, or 10-ounce steak, do you know what the recommended serving size is? A serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cars, able to be held in the palm of our hand. In terms of measurement this equates to between three and four ounces. An alternative to eating the bigger portions mentioned above, we can opt to share a six or eight ounce or eat half and save the other half for the next day. If serving sizes confuse you, check out the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) serving size card for guidance.
Go with Whole Grains
Grain kernels are made up of three parts: bran (the shell), endosperm (the starchy part), and germ (the part that can grow into another plant). Refined grains go through a process that removes all but the starchy part. While these grains allow for a longer shelf life, they don’t retain the health advantages of whole grains. Whole grains maintain all three parts of the kernel, which are ground together. Thus, whole grains retain the fiber containing bran and the germ which is filled with nutrients (www.mayoclinic.org). Additionally, they offer more B vitamins and minerals than their refined counterpart. Therefore, in the battle between whole grains versus refined, whole grains is the clear winner when it comes to our health. A few ways that we can choose to incorporate more whole grains into our diet are: brown rice instead of white rice, oatmeal instead of grits, and rye or whole wheat bread instead of white bread. Other sources of whole grains include corn on the cob, quinoa, popcorn, and wild rice.
Compromise, Compromise, Compromise
Personal and business relationships both require a fair amount of compromise to be successful. Likewise, our relationship with food also requires compromise. Denying ourselves of all the “bad” foods that we enjoy is not the answer, neither is it a good idea to recklessly indulge in these items. Find ways to compromise. Some suggested things you can do are: avoid eating desserts daily, but allow yourself to enjoy a weekly dessert or have a sugar free dessert more often; Instead of having bread and a baked goodie or neither, pick one and then at another meal pick the other; if you enjoy a soft drink, occasionally allow yourself a glass or a half a glass instead of eliminating them completely from your diet. Denial often works in the short term, but in the long term it often leads to overindulgence.
I hope that I have given you some “food for thought”. This post is not meant to be conclusive, but a starting point for improving your eating habits. Take baby steps, incorporating one change at a time until it becomes a new habit.